By Brandon Bilyeu
(SR-1X, SL-1 and Halsey models rated)
- Excellent clarity from Carl Zeiss lenses and coatings
- Lightweight (22-26 grams), barely there feel
- Super grippy, non-slip nose and temple pads
- Custom configuration of frame colors and lenses available
- Zippered hard case with storage for additional lenses
- ‘Home Try-On’ program makes finding the right pair easy
- 100% UVA/B/C protection
- Only one lens included
- Nose pads are not adjustable
Cost: $170 – $210 depending on style and lens
Colors: Numerous frame and lens colors
How Obtained: Review sample from company
Availability: Online and retail stores
RBR Sponsor: No
Website: www.roka.com, https://www.roka.com/collections/sunglasses-for-cycling
Tested: 30+ hours
Triathlon Gear Company Makes Great Sunglasses
ROKA is a well-known and respected brand on the triathlon scene and while triathlon gear is very sport specific their sunglasses easily cross over to general cycling. I had the opportunity to test out a couple different styles of their cycling specs and came away very happy with the performance and quality that is on par with the giants of cycling eyewear like Oakley, Smith, etc.
With limited retail locations ROKA has made trying on their different styles easy with the ‘Home Try-On’ program. This allows you to order up to four pairs shipped to your home, try them out for 7 days, keep the one(s) you want, and ship the rest back with free shipping. There is a handling fee, but it gets applied towards the purchase price of any pair you keep. It’s not as convenient as walking into a store, but given the many different styles and sizes available it is nice to be able to try out a few different options.
While ROKA offers a good selection of off-the-shelf frame/lens combos, another unique feature is ROKA’s custom program (though the custom sunglasses do not qualify for the Home Try-On and are not returnable). Many styles are customizable and allow you to pick the frame color, lens, temple grip color, and nose pad color. You can flaunt your favorite color or coordinate with your helmet/kit.
High Performance Eyewear
When designing their sunglasses ROKA applied the same design philosophy across the entire product line with a strong emphasis on sport performance, namely optical clarity and fit. As with many high end sunglasses ROKA turned to the experts to supply their lenses and coatings, Carl Zeiss. I can attest to the lenses offering very crisp, distortion free vision and know that my eyes are protected from the sun with 100% blocking of UVA/B/C rays. There is a fairly exhaustive list of coatings including hydroleophobic, anti-scratch, anti-reflective, anti-fog, and mirrored. Bottom line is that I found the lenses to be very robust, actually shed water/sweat/fog pretty well, and have remained scratch free after many cleanings using the supplied cloth.
For a comfortable fit the sunglasses are very light, all falling inside the 20-30 gram range, so I got a feeling of them just disappearing on my face when I put them on. At the same time the frames feel very sturdy and the hinges are solid with no play. While very light weight the sunglasses are definitely not delicate and can handle the abuse typical of sports equipment. The GEKO nose and temple pads are very grippy, with the nose especially locked on due to the wedge effect. A titanium core wire in the temple allows for fit adjustment, but unfortunately the nose pads are not adjustable, though ROKA tells me this feature is on the way.
SR-1(x) and SL-1(x): Sunglasses for Fast Days in the Saddle
With aggressive styling and large visual field coverage these are great riding glasses that look fast. The main difference between the two styles is that the SR is a full top frame design while the SL is a frameless design. Preference for styling aside the main diffference between the two is the amount of temple pressure. The full top frame of the SR is stiff and provides a noticeably stronger clamping force at the temples than the SL that only has the flexible lens for stiffness. I found both styles stay in place over bumpy gravel roads, so it comes down to personal preference on how much force you like at the temples.
Both styles come in two versions, standard (SR-1 and SL-1) and enhanced field of view (SR-1X and SL-1X) which comes with a slightly larger lens for better coverage. I tested the SR-1X and found them to be a very good size offering good vertical and peripheral coverage without looking ginormous on my face. The SL-1 had sufficient lens coverage, but I would probably upgrade to the SL-1X if I had the choose again for the extra top side coverage.
I was a little disappointed to see only one lens included, but there are many different lens options available to cover different lighting conditions available for purchase. Removing the lens and nose pad is quick and simple, but you do have to touch the lens so either use the cleaning cloth to grab the lens or be prepared to clean both lenses after a swap. And the frameless SL temple pieces work with either the standard or larger X lenses for even more versatilty. The glasses come with a nice zippered hard case, cleaning cloth/bag, and there is storage for one extra lens in the hard case.
Halsey Sunglasses Blend Classic Styling and Modern Performance
ROKA also has options with more classic styling, like the Halsey, which work equally well both on and off the bike. With the same great lenses, grippy pads, and light weight as the SR and SL these sunglasses pack high performance in a casual package. While the Halsey does not offer interchangable lense it is prescription ready for those who need vision correction.
The wrap-around frames do interfere with peripheral vision slightly, but after a few minutes you quickly learn to just move your head a bit more to compensate. While probably not the best choice for races or aggressive group rides they are perfect for laid back group and solo rides, with the added bonus that after the ride you can just keep on wearing them for a casual look. The Halsey sunglasses come with a soft cloth bag for storage and cleaning and not a hard case.
Undoubtedly these are pricey optics, but no more so than the other big brands like Oakley and Smith. The ROKA glasses are very well made so if taken care of should last many years which helps justify the investment. The current non-adjustable nose pads are the only real issue I have with these glasses, but ROKA is working on this. So if you are interested, I would suggest waiting until they release adjustable nose pads.